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'It should be easy to apply for teaching. It isn't'

There's a recruitment crisis, yet it's absurdly complicated to apply, writes one potential career changer

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There's a recruitment crisis, yet it's absurdly complicated to apply, writes one potential career changer

I want to be a teacher… Get me into here! The crisis of recruitment into the profession is not abating, but is there enough of the right sort of help for applicants like me?

As reported by Tes, there has been a drop of 15 per cent in applications on last year. Rules on the required literacy and numeracy tests have recently been relaxed, meaning the end of the three-year bar should applicants fail one or the other. And Ucas has reduced its fee to a nominal £1 until July.

I have glad tidings: there are still people like me who are planning to apply. I am ready and able to bump up those numbers. The bad news is that I and others I know are slightly mired in the complexity of getting in.

You would imagine that the Department for Education's Get Into Teaching programme and website would offer uncomplicated and straightforward routes into the profession for those considering a career change. You would be wrong.

The barriers to entry start with getting school experience, an essential prerequisite to drafting Ucas application personal statements. If no nearby schools offer experience on the website, the advice is to apply in person to schools. At a Train to Teach event I attended in the autumn, the recommendation was not to email, as it would be lost in inboxes; instead we should consider dropping in a letter at the end of the school day in the hope that the relevant head of department would be there, accept the correspondence and be open to the suggestion of an observer in class. This conjured up visions of prospective teachers trampling parents underfoot at 3.30pm each day in a desperate bid to get up the driveway to the school office.

The advice was sound. I did try emailing a named individual at schools in my area, having called ahead, and mainly didn't receive a reply. I totally understand the pressures, but it was more than a little discouraging. One school in South West London charges £30 per day for the privilege of observing. Eventually I did get a day at a school in Surrey that required a two-hour commute. More days were on offer there, but I eventually secured a spot at the school I currently attend only because I know one of the governors.

Risk of burnout

That was the simple bit compared with navigating the complexities of school-centred initial teacher training (Scitts) versus full-time study. Full-time study providers are at pains to reassure applicants that classroom experience is at the core of what they offer, that it is not all theory and that they have close relationships with the schools they send their students to. I called one university in London about the schools they partnered with, only to be told (this was in December) that they didn't yet know which schools would be part of the programme in the 2018-19 academic year.

Scitts providers bend over backwards to emphasise that trainees will be mentored, buddied and befriended from day one, and that there will be theoretical pedagogical studies to underpin classroom experience, including the possibility of a PGCE. However, I know one person for whom a classroom-led scheme did lead to burnout, and he left (there were other things happening in his life, but still). He was one of the inspirations for my career change. 

A personal obstacle for me is that I haven't got a maths (wait for it) O level, so I'm attempting to study for an equivalency test. This is not perhaps the best advert for a budding teacher: I couldn't be bothered to study for a vital qualification. Equally, it might reflect on the quality of the motivation on offer at the time, but there we are. I do understand the need for such a qualification; there was a hue and cry in the national press some years ago about innumerate and illiterate teachers being let loose on our children. I have, however, spent more than half a lifetime in marketing preparing budgets and delivering client evaluation reports; as an English teacher, I do feel equipped for the new data-driven world of teaching that I can see in evidence at my own school.

Help is at hand, however. As I get fractious over fractions and lose my equilibrium over equations, the DfE last week kindly texted me a link to assist me. Katie Pix, a cookery vlogger with 23,000 subscribers on YouTube, meets Josh, a science teacher. Dressed in pink and clutching a cappuccino, Katie breathlessly (and repeatedly) says the school is like a family and that this must be the most fulfilling thing in the world – and that she so, so, so admires Josh. That's alright then. Feeling inspired and really rather cool, I return to the more mundane reality of getting myself into Josh's shoes at some point in the future.

David Hall is applying to become a teacher. For 25 years, he worked in communications for a range of clients. He tweets @campdavid

 

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